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Entries in humour (8)


How Everything is Going to Shit

Two eternal principles of human societies are, first, things tend to get better over time, and second, at any given moment, everyone believes they're getting much, much worse. I'm aware of the contradiction, and try to keep a realistic and optimistic worldview. Sometimes, though, it's really hard.

This morning, for example. I can't sleep, so around 5AM I get dressed, plonk myself on the couch and start watching the last republican debate. (Yeah, I know, big mistake.) A vicious back-and-forth erupts while discussing foreign policy. Asked to clarify how eager she is to start a war against a country of 70 million which has not attacked anyone in the last two centuries, one of the candidates answers, Otherwise, an unspecified number of American lives might be at risk. Oh, we have no choice then. Let's do it. It's nice that waging war is apparently risk-free.

Her opponent counters that there is no evidence, no evidence at all, that Iran is even trying to build a nuclear weapon. And he says it with a straight face, on national television. (I'm assuming. I saw it on YouTube.)

Imagine a world where such clowns are competing for the most important job on Earth. Where both are supported by millions of people, can raise fortunes to help their campaign, are taken seriously by the media and the entire nation. Where both of them already hold political positions of considerable power.

Yup, that's the world we're living in.

I switch to the presumably less retarded realm of economic news, where the debate du jour is about the proper protocol for one senior economist to call bullshit on another senior economist. Sure, that's important.

My father enters the room and hands me today's paper. There's a group photo of what looks like haredi jews wearing the striped-shirts-cum-yellow-star garbs often seen in Europe during the 1940's. A young girl is throwing a timid but well-intentioned Nazi salute while watching the camera. Please, oh please, let this story be about a Guinness World Record for Most Insensitive School Play Ever. Or Dieudonné's latest musical.

It's not. It's a protest by an actual group of Haredi comparing the secular Israeli state's hostility to their ultra-orthodox ways with Naziism's hostility to the existence of Jews. You see, a Jew walking the streets in Nazi Germany might be sent away to die in a labour camp. A Haredi walking the streets in Jerusalem might see a woman. Yeah, I can understand how that's totally the same thing. In a related story, grown men have been publicly rebuked for picketing a girl school, spitting on the pupils and calling them "nazi whores". Those girls are 6 to 8 years-old.

Let me make this absolutely clear: those concentration-camp-reenacters are not protesting the spitting-on-8-year-old-girls guys. They are the spitting-on-8-year-old-girls guys. They're protesting the rebuke that followed their spitballs, because they feel it's a totally inappropriate reaction to their completely reasonable spiritual lifestyle, which happens to involve standing outside schools shouting insults at 8 year-olds. I disagree. I think a rebuke is an entirely appropriate response. So is a baseball bat, thumbscrews or any combination of slick Krav Maga moves like they apparently do down there. You know what would be inappropriate ? Forcing them into one of those medieval sarcophagi, you know, the kind with all the nails on the inside, whaddya-call-'em?… Yeah, iron maidens, that's the name. Yes, that would be inappropriate. Definitely an overeaction. Somewhat.


Below this abomination, two Israeli academics debate the relation between faith and secular law in their country. The phrase "a small but vocal minority of religious fascist nutjobs" is conspicuously — and depressingly — absent.

I turn the page, thinking things can hardly get any worse. There's a photo of what can only be a female version of a Jesus-on-the-cross statue. I mean, that can't possibly be an actual, living, breathing human being. No way anyone does such a thing.

Uh, yes way: "Found in the cave where she'd been imprisoned, starved and tortured for her five-month long marriage, 15-year old Sahar Gul…"

OK, I give up. I just don't care anymore. I throw the paper towards a dark corner, very far away, switch to Youtube and search for "cat".

I know these are times of good resolutions, and many of you are probably pledging to exercise more, drink less, be more punctual, whatever… For my part, I mostly wish I could read less news.

Addendum: I wrote this while the first votes in the process that will eventually determine the next leader of the free world were being counted. The result: a shameless mannequin tied with a man who believes that mutually consenting adults do not have a right to privacy. "Land of the Free" indeed. The only sane and principled candidate scored 0.6%.

iPad EULA leaked

This device is provided without warranty of any kind as to reliability, accuracy, existence or otherwise or fitness for any particular purpose and Apple Inc. specifically does not warrant, guarantee, imply or make any representations as to its merchantability for any particular purpose and furthermore shall have no liability for or responsibility to you or any other person, entity or deity with respect of any loss or damage whatsoever caused by this device or object or by any attemps to destroy it by hammering it against a wall or dropping it into a deep well or any other means whatsoever and moreover asserts that you indicate your acceptance of this agreement or any other agreement that may be substituted at any time by coming within five miles of the product or observing it through large telescopes or by any other means because you are such an easily cowed moron who will happily accept arrogant and unilateral conditions on a piece of highly priced garbage that you would not dream of accepting on a bag of dog biscuits and is used solely at your own risk.

Admittedly this is not the iPad's end-user license agreement but that of a fictitious personal organizer from Terry Pratchett's The Truth, and the real EULA might not even have been written yet, but I'm guessing this is pretty close.


Just In: Tasty Food Keeps You Thin

While roaming the web for news bits on the health-care reform debate in the US (which can be hysterically funny or very sad, often simultaneously) I stumbled upon a report on various health care statistics in OECD countries.

For me the most interesting part of this report was the last graph, which charts obesity levels across countries. These seem to inverse-correlate perfectly with how good I find the food there. The thinnest countries are those with either superb meat and produce (Switzerland), awesome cuisine (France), or both (Japan). The fattest are those where good food seems rare and wicked expensive (the UK and US).

Obviously this is just my own perception, but how great would it be if there was some general law hidden in there, so that each time you had a really good meal, you could tell yourself that in all likelihood it must also have been really healthy?


Black Holes are Kewwwwl

Scientists at the Israel Institute of Technology managed to create an acoustic black hole. This is pretty neat in and of itself, but the real value lies in prompting Wired to make all those lists of things they want to throw at it ;-)


For web browsers, the future is now

Author's note: I just uncovered a draft of this post, which was written during Safari 4's public beta. It was almost finished, but for some reason I had forgotten all about it. Since it is just as (ir)relevant today as it was then, I'm publishing it now.

Yesterday I read this in a mail from Agile Web Solutions, makers of the beloved 1Password:

Last week Apple released a new Beta of Safari 4 and I’m blown away by how great it is! While it will take some time to get used to the new tabs, I’m very excited about the new features, especially the ability to resize images when zooming the page.

It seems every other year or so I hear someone gushing about how their favourite browser's new version sports some amazing innovative new feature, and each time it's something Opera has had since the nineties. There must be some kind of fundamental law at work here, and I am sure careful analysis of Opera's changelog would yield an accurate timetable of future "innovations" in other browsers. Obviously, "careful research" is way too much work for me, but this being a blog I am allowed to just make it all up. So today, I proudly present you with the future of web browsers:


  • Safari now seamlessly saves open tabs on exit and restores them on restart

  • In Firefox, cmd-z reopens just-closed tabs


  • At Macworld, Apple announces Safari will support mouse gestures "in a future version"

  • Firefox drops the "you are about to close x open tabs" dialog box

  • The major browsers finally figure out the right implementation of History-Back on sites that use POST requests


  • Internet Explorer 9 has a "downloads" window that is not entirely useless

  • Safari now remembers which filetypes to open (and with which application) and which filetypes to save (and where)

  • Firefox finds a way to save passwords without making them readable by anyone who happens to walk by the computer


  • All major browsers now support unified full-text search of bookmarks, history and the web, all from the address field

  • Internet Explorer gets keyboard navigation so good that using a mouse at all is entirely optional

  • Firefox gets auto-fill that works with more than one account per site

  • History in Safari becomes vaguely usable


  • IE's new popup blocker gives you more than .6 seconds to react when you *do* want a popup to open

  • Firefox now requires only three clicks to download all links from a web page (eg. an ftp index page)

  • Safari offers bookmarks syncing across computers. For free.

And finally, circa 2029

  • Mozilla presents Firefox 17, the first version to require less than a dozen plug-ins to be any good